Craig Wolfley with his view of the Pittsburgh Steelers' debacle in Baltimore

Steelers Radio sideline reporter Craig Wolfley with the inside look at the Steelers' upset loss to the Ravens.

Even though it was Ravens Week, and the division-rival "Dirty Birds" were in the process of warming up at M&T Bank Stadium, as were the Pittsburgh Steelers, I couldn’t get the feeling out of my head as I watched that it just wasn’t right. It didn’t FEEL right. Something was missing. All week long the disappearance of all the Ravens villains, from Terrell Suggs to Haloti Ngata, seemed to have watered down the rivalry. Add in the fact that the Ravens had 19 people on injured reserve, were starting their fourth QB in Ryan (Rip Van) Mallett, and his unusual habit of sleeping through a meeting or team flight, coupled with the Ravens' 4-10 record, made the pregame rather mundane in my mind. Especially after the tense pre-games of the last two weeks.

* After DeAngelo Williams ripped the Ravens on the first drive with runs of 9, 7, and 30 yards, and Fitzgerald Toussaint added a couple of others, I thought the fourth-and-1 was nothing more than a formality. Excellent call, given the amount of bickering I watched among the Ravens defenders from the sidelines. At the snap, when I saw Ramon Foster fall and hit the turf one step into pulling on the lead power, after tripping over Ben Roethlisberger’s feet, my heart sank because I knew that DeAngelo was going to get stuffed like a Pimento olive. Back in the day, while trying to get out on the hunt for a short-yardage search-and-destroy mission, I cut my split between Mike Webster and myself as I prepared to pull from my LG spot. At the snap, I pulled to my right, and one of my hands smacked the ball out of Terry Bradshaw’s hands, because cutting my split down changed the timing of Bradshaw’s handoff to Franco. Anything can happen when the snap begets the chaos of any given play.

Brandon Boykin has inserted himself into the lineup with some pretty good play of late. On a second-and-8, Mallett rifled one into Ravens TE Maxx Williams, which Boykin defended with a nice, timely pass defense expertly done, clean as a whistle. Impressive all the more when you consider that Williams is 6-4, 250 pounds while Boykin is just 5-10, 182.

* On a first-and-10 in the first quarter, Ben and Antonio Brown hooked up on a beautiful 27-yarder that was highlighted by A.B. shaking CB Jimmy Smith with a move that left Smith on the ground looking around frantically for A.B. The most impressive thing about A.B. is probably the last thing you just watched A.B. do, because he keeps doing big-time stuff week in and week out.

* Speaking of which, Ben hit A.B. in the end zone with a 16-yard TD pass that A.B. goes to the ground with one hand, then two hands. The ball moves, which nullified a great catch. Even though the ball moving didn’t have anything to do with the ball coming loose, it just got greater security because A.B. brought in a second hand to back up the first hand. There's never been a greater need for common sense to reign in the NFL concerning the definition of a catch.

* After another out-of-bounds/no-catch in the second quarter, A.B. was talking it over with Ben on the sideline. It’s interesting because A.B. is literally demonstrating the toe drag and hand position that he thought made for a good catch. He even went on to practice the toe drag a couple more times. That’s greatness seeking to become greater.

* On a Jordan Berry punt, gunner Shamarko Thomas made a sensational play out of what many people take for granted. Defeating his lone opponent as Berry hung a punt 42 yards, Thomas, never slowing and with plenty of open real estate, closed hard and mulched punt returner Kaelin Clay for a minus 1-yard return. That takes a lot of athletic ability, and a lot of courage. If you play it safe, it's yardage gained uncontested. If you play reckless, its yardage gained overly contested. To be just right is like walking a fine line between sanity and insanity. As they say, a little of both helps.

* Foster passed me on the sideline while coming out for the second half. The Steelers were down 13-3, and I heard The Big Ragu say “Makes for a better finish,” to no one in particular. Confidence is what carries you. With a scoring streak of 30-plus points per game over the last 4-5 weeks, this is an offensive unit that totally believes in their capabilities. With a guy with the magic of Roethlisberger at the helm, yeah, I’ve been in this situation before and I’ve looked into the eyes of another noted QB magician, Mr. Bradshaw, and believed the halftime deficit would “Make for a better finish.”

* After Williams scored from 1-yard out in the third quarter, Matt Spaeth was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Matt drove his guy into the ground, and when he was kneeling over DeAngelo, and some Ravens who were on the ground also, it looked to me like Matt was trying to pull his arm out from the grasp of one of the Ravens. I can’t be sure but after a couple attempts at getting his arm unhooked from the unidentified player, Matt probably swatted in retaliation for whomever was agitating. Matt was called over by the coach after the ref made the announcement. That's when I could see -- as he sat on the bench between Heath Miller and Jesse James -- Matt demonstrating the Ravens' shenanigans.

* On a second-and-5 in the third quarter, I had a perfect sideline angle to watch Boykin disguise and then blitz from the slot. He timed it perfectly, barreling toward Mallett at the snap. Standing in his way was 6-0, 220-pound Buck Allen on a blitz pickup. The smaller Boykin ran over the bigger Allen on his way to sacking Mallet for a 9-yard loss. That sack was 90% desire and 10% technique.

Stephon Tuitt got honked off at 5-time Pro Bowl G Marshall Yanda after a run play, and the subsequent holding call on Yanda proved Tuitt correct. Tuitt’s shoulder pads were pulled up like ear muffs on each side of his head, so bad did the Yanda hold Tuitt. Defensive linemen are sensitive to those sort of things.

* In the fourth quarter, on a first-and-15, Mallett hooked up on a wheel route up the sideline for a 34-yard gain by FB Kyle Juszczyk. I believe the Steelers were in their dime package, having brought "Law Dawg" (Lawrence Timmons) out and leaving Ryan Shazier in. Juszczyk started off looking like he was headed to the flat, then hightailed it up the sideline. Shazier got caught heading out on a flat angle of intercept, only to see the Ravens' FB going north and south. Big gain and I can see from my vantage point the frustration in Ryan’s face. He wasn't wearing the only frustrated face out there. He had a lot of company.

* That was the quickest look of disbelief to relief I think I’ve seen in a long, long time when Big Ben was intercepted by Smith, who set sail on an end zone to end zone touchdown return. I saw a flag thrown by the line judge immediately, but I wasn't sure about the call. By the time Smith was celebrating in the end zone, I could see the Steelers sideline and all the coaches who were pointing in the Ravens' direction.

* Trying to interview somebody on the field after a hard-fought loss can be challenging. Most of the players just wanted to get off the field. So getting A.B. to have a word with me after the final gun was appreciated. What amazed me was how many well-wishers A.B. got after a game like that against an intense rival. Ravens player after player came up to pay homage to A.B., who was a true professional in all ways. Mike Webster used to hold court like that after a game. Like A.B., Webby was league-wide held in great esteem.


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